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Kaesong talks over N Korea wage row

North Korean employees work at the assembly line of the factory of South Korean company at the Kaesong industrial complex on December 19, 2013 in Kaesong,
Image caption

In 2013, Kaesong was shut down for five months as ties between the two Koreas deteriorated

South Korean businessmen are visiting the Kaesong joint industrial zone in North Korea amid a row over a unilateral wage hike.

Pyongyang raised the monthly minimum wage for its workers in Kaesong to $74 (£50) from $70.35 starting in March.

Seoul officials say the North should not be unilaterally changing labour laws.

Kaesong is the last point of co-operation between the two Koreas and a key source of revenue for Pyongyang.

South Korean firms use cheap North Korean labour to manufacture a raft of goods there. Keeping production going benefits both nations.

The zone is seen as a barometer of the relationship between the two Koreas, who remain technically at war.

In 2013, it was shut down for five months as ties deteriorated after Pyongyang’s 12 February nuclear test.

The South Korean delegation is being led by Chung Ki-sup, the head of the council of South Korean companies operating in Kaesong.

“The North Korean side neither wants to completely shut down or cause major damage to the park, so we believe that these issues can be solved through dialogue,” he said.

Mr Chung said the firms believed the North had been angered by a North Korean defector who said he would fly anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border using helium balloons later in March.

However, the government has said it has no grounds to block the move.

Officials from the Unification Ministry said there was no connection.

“It’s not appropriate to link the leaflet-scattering issue with our response to North Korea’s unilateral and unjust demand for a wage hike,” South Korean media quoted ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-cheol as saying.

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